taining the origin of the Japanese curve, we may infer that a moderate, but undetected, wave of abortion occurred before 1949, when the number of legal abortions already exceeded 250,000.
Numerous reasons are advanced for the high prevalence of abortions in postwar Japan. Koya (11) lists the following examples: (a) the amendment of the 1948 Eugenic Protection Law which legalized abortion for medical and social reasons; (b) the moral decay of society after the war; (c) the attitude of physicians toward their patients; (d) the response of the people to the government's efforts to promote family planning and to limit family size. Mura-matsu (14) adds that the truly significant fact lies in the strength of motivation among the general public to adjust the number of children to environment.
In Japan abortion is permitted if a pregnancy or delivery threatens the health of the mother because of her physical or financial condition. The assertation that another child will be hard to feed is enough reason for terminating pregnancy. Abortion can be obtained at the cost of about 5 dollars at facilities in both hospitals and specialized abortion centers (8).
It is not possible to assess in exact figures the number of births averted by induced abortion in Japan. However, some detailed studies attempt to determine the extent to which induced abortion was responsible for reducing births during the 1945-53 period. Muramatsu (15) took into account the number of married women of fertile age and their reproductive activities, the level of their fecundity, and their use of contraception and sterilization. Then he used an elaborate procedure to calculate the number of births prevented by induced abortion in 1955. He arrived at three estimates of the expected numbers of births that would have occurred in Japan in 1955 had there been no induced abortion—3.8, 3.4, or 3.1 million live births, both legitimate and illegitimate. The actual number reported for 1955 was 1.73 million. Therefore, 2.1, 1.7, or 1.4 million births were prevented by induced abortions. On the average then, a 50 percent reduction of anticipated births in 1955 is attributed to induced abortion.
It is highly unlikely that the contemporary developing nations will follow the Japanese and effect a dramatic lowering of fertility within such a short period for the following reasons:
1. Japan was more modernized before the war than are most contemporary developing nations.
2. Although Japan had her industrial revolution within the 20th century, her industrial development has been far ahead of other countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
3. Even before the industrial revolution, the fertility level in Japan was not as high as it is in most developing countries today. Japan began her transition with a birth rate of about 35 per 1,000 population. A majority of the developing countries still have a birth rate of 40 to 50 per 1,000.